Sadly, ‘Opal Lady’ is now a boat without a ship’s cat; Neon has passed away at the stately age of 18 and ¾. While we have been expecting this for some time, Peter and I really feel his absence in our lives.
Neon joined our family in country Victoria in 2003, as a Christmas gift for our son Mitchell. He was a red and grey tabby and we used to joke that the grey, instead of the usual white, was because of the smoke that was around when he was born, during a bushfire. He spent the next 8 years as a confidante, usually wrapped around Mitchell’s neck – a mutually beneficial arrangement during the cold Victorian winters. He worked at keeping the possums out of Mum’s rose gardens (two leg abscesses later – score the possums) and for no particularly sane reason took on a Tiger Snake under the house (big score to the Tiger Snake – Mum ended up doing mouth to nose respirations until the Vet could get into town with the antivenom, followed by two weeks in hospital). When Mitch had to head off to University, Neon stayed with the older Beilbys and moved to Perth in Western Australia. He adapted to a suburban lifestyle; chased the odd mouse, glared at the odd rat, generally expanded into middle age and was set for a comfortable and sedentary end of life – it was not to be.
People who knew Neon noticed that he seemed to have a second go at life when we moved onto the boat. You may not be able to teach an old dog new tricks, but this old cat was definitely up for it. And after a relatively short period of adjustment…
he developed a real nautical appetite – possibly fresh fish inspired. Over the last 3 1/2 years he has enjoyed;
A lifestyle of regular fresh fish, fresh air and sunshine,
Dominating small feathery things and shiny scaly things
Acting as advisor and mentor to Peter, especially when playing cribbage and Yahtzee
And helping Suz keep the housekeeping sorted.
In adapting to the boat life, he like Peter and Suz, also trimmed off the middle age spread (in his case he went from a vet-concerning 8kgs to a trim and healthy 4.5kg) and as a result, was surprisingly more active.
Neon played a vital role in the smooth running of the boat;
There are hidey holes I would not have necessarily visited and cleaned of rust/salt buildup/unclassified smelly substances had I not needed to follow Neon on his explorations of any opening. Like having a toddler in the home, there are safety considerations that were made because of him; such as keeping things secured, keeping doors jammed, closing cupboard drawers, and these also worked to make ‘Opal Lady’ a safer place for us.
Neon would be surprised to learn that he filled the role of peacemaker/communications officer. I often started conversations with “Neon isn’t happy with this [insert situation here]…”, and Peter would often say things like “Doesn’t Neon need [water/food/litter changing] now…”. Actually, I think Neon wouldn’t have been at all surprised, as he knew He was the Centre of our small ship.
Unfortunately, it was Neon’s time to leave us, but he has left an almost tangible furry shaped hole in ‘Opal Lady’, and we miss him dearly.